As the video game industry has grown exponentially over the last few decades, so too has its hype machine. Developers frequently tease games years in advance of their actual release, building up fan momentum before there’s even a game to play. This can backfire when it results in a dissonance between player expectations and the final result, but never more obviously than when the game never comes out at all. Software that’s gone MIA — aka “vaporware” — has been a perennial feature of the protracted development process necessary for games.
Many of the longest-standing vaporware bugbears such as Duke Nukem Forever and The Last Guardian did eventually see the light of day — a fact that keeps fans on the lookout for coded Half-Life 3 messages in everything Valve says — but there are plenty of juicy titles in that sweet spot where we’ve assumed that someone has been working on them, but things have been awfully quiet. Here are some of the games we’ve been scratching our heads over.
We loved this unforgiving, aesthetically sparse roguelike from Capybara Games when we played it at GDC 2016. Below is a hack-and-slash that delves into the depths of a mysterious cave system. Like Rogue Legacy or the upcoming Flinthook, it combines roguelike elements, such as permanent death and procedurally-generated environments, with a larger meta-progression to keep you engaged over the long term, but with think less arcade and more Dark Souls. It was first announced in 2013, and we were hopeful that it would meet its planned release in summer 2016 when we played such a compelling build a few months prior. However, as of August, Below has been pushed back with no release date yet announced.
Beyond Good and Evil 2
Action-adventure game Beyond Good & Evil was the critical darling of 2013, but a commercial failure. Starring photojournalist Jade and set in the distant future, this dark, sci-fi mystery has since been canonized as a classic. Creator Michel Ancel, known for the Rayman franchise, saw the game as part of a trilogy, and first announced the sequel in 2008. After years of rumors, fans waiting for the sequel were finally got their wish when Ubisoft’s E3 2017 presentation with an extended CG trailer announcing the game. While Ubisoft revealed some basic information on the game, we still don’t know what it looks like in action, or when it Ubisoft hopes to ship it.
Kingdom Hearts 3
Kingdom Hearts 3 has been JRPG fans’ holy grail since creator Tetsuya Nomura first teased news of the sequel in late 2006. Square Enix’ fusion of Final Fantasy with Disney’s animated films has remained popular, despite releasing a series of spin-off titles with increasingly arcane titles. In part, Kingdom Hearts 3 seems to have been caught up in the painful development of Final Fantasy XV, with which it once shared a director. Square Enix released a new, combat-heavy trailer during E3 2017. While it was certainly impressive, no release window was given. Meanwhile, Recent comments from Square Enix suggest that it could still be three years away.
Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet games were an early hit of the PlayStation 3, foreshadowing the rise of games built around player-made content, even before Minecraft blew that space wide open. The studio’s haunting reveal of Dreams at E3 2015 promised to take that concept to a whole new level on the PS4. Using their DualShock controller as a motion controller to sculpt 3D objects and environments, players will be able to create, share, and explore varied, sometimes psychedelic dreamscapes. It was an ambitious pitch, but also vague. A planned beta was delayed indefinitely in December, so Dreams will remain in that eponymous realm until we see something tangible.
Visceral and Respawn’s Star Wars games
The Star Wars franchise’s long history in gaming includes plenty of titles that have abandoned well into development, such as LucasArts’ vaporous Star Wars 1313. EA’s aggressive Star Wars offensive at E3 2016 included two projects, in particular, that are notable for both their esteemed developers and the total lack of updates we’ve seen since. Dead Space studio Visceral Games has brought on Uncharted scribe Amy Hennig to make a third-person action game. EA also announced that Titanfall creator Respawn Entertainment is working on its own third-person action title. Both will follow original stories and characters within the greater Star Wars universe, but that’s about all we know at the moment.
1666: Amsterdam and Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed creator Patrice Désilets has had two historically-focused action games in the works for several years. Like its creator’s most famous franchise, 1666: Amsterdam is a third-person title focused on assassinations in detail-rich historical city recreations. Leaked footage showed a cloaked figure stalking the canals of Amsterdam and murdering people, in part through turning into a raven, cat, and rat. Désilets recently got the rights to the IP back from his former employer, Ubisoft, after a messy legal battle resulting from the dissolution and auctioning-off of defunct publisher THQ.
While 1666 was tied up in the courts, however, Désilets started Panache Digital to develop Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey. Another third-person action adventure, it will feature survival elements and at least start in the Neolithic period, focusing on mankind’s progress through history “with a documentary twist.” After announcing the project with a brief and vague teaser in 2015, there have been no new developments other than Désilets’ assurance that he is still focusing on the game after regaining the rights to 1666.
Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil mastermind Michel Ancel showed off an open-world nature game called Wild back at Sony’s Gamescom press conference in 2014. A new project from Ancel’s independent Wild Sheep studio — worked on in addition to his duties at Ubisoft Montpellier — the game promised nearly limitless freedom. Players would be able to control not just humans, but also animals like bears and birds to defend themselves against predators and hunt for resources.
Since the initial gameplay demonstration, we’ve heard next to nothing about Wild. The developer’s website still says that it is hiring for environment and character artists for the project, but little else appears to have been updated. With the announcement of Beyond Good & Evil 2, we don’t expect to hear news on Wild anytime soon.
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